Seasonal

Christmas Gift ideas: A Countrymans take

It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn towards the festivities to come!

As a family we all LOVE Christmas and we absolutely make a huge occasion of it. We love everything about it, dressing the trees (Yes we have more than one), decorating the outside of the house, buying the presents and the food, the nights snuggled up in front of the fire, watching Harry Potter Movies we’ve seen a million times before, eating as much chocolate as you can, and in my case sampling the odd schooner of Otima Port!

It usually falls to me to buy the gifts as I really do enjoy the process, yes I find it stressful but I love it when you find that perfect something for a special someone. Now I don’t spend mega bucks (mainly because I don’t have them to spend!) but I do take a great deal of time thinking what people would like and enjoy receiving. Yes I may get it completely wrong sometimes but again, with the amount of thought that goes into my gifts it is definitely that that counts!

I’ve found some lovely little shops, crafters and bespoke items this year and alongside some more familiar ones I wanted to share a few of these with you all and maybe give you a little inspiration:

DUDLEY & ROO
Amazing handmade jewellery and gift ideas! We had George’s christening cuff made here; I’ve also bought some beautiful silver jewellery items and several other Christmassy things like Santa’s Special Key and George’s 1st Christmas Bauble. Highly recommended!

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CLEEGLASS
I’ve purchased a lovely sea glass necklace from here; I love the concept of recycling the sea glass found locally! I’ve always been a huge beachcomber and have a small collection of sea glass I’ve collected over the years.  I can’t think of a better way to use the glass than make stunning jewellery with it! I’ve got my eye on a sea glass ring next! (HINT HINT SANTA!)

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SETH & NOAH
This company supply a gorgeous selection wooden items for everyone! Lovely colours and the stacking rainbows are beautiful.  We’re having a ‘Believe’ Sign made for George’s room!

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THE CHOCOLAT STORY
These chocolates are quite simply stunning! When I first saw them I couldn’t believe my eyes!  They are on my Christmas wish list and I am certainly going to order some as gifts!

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POTTY FEET
Love these plant pot feet, I first found them at RHS Chatsworth and totally fell in love with them. They do loads of different designs but the Hunting scene ones are my favourite. A lovely gift idea.

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PIGEON ORGANICS
For that special little someone why not treat them to some beautiful new outfits from these amazing people! The ethical and organic cotton is super soft and washes and wears incredibly well. We fell in love with their Camper Van print but their new Vikings design is our Favourite from the Autumn/Winter collection.  I just wish we had a girl to treat to some of their lovely girly things too!

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BLADE & ROSE
Another idea for that little someone is some Blade & Rose Leggings! We have the Bus and Tractor ones for George and love them! Super comfy and soft and what’s even better is they come in a huge variety of designs! There are even special Christmassy ones!

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BEEBOMBS
Know someone who wants to help the Bees? These are the perfect little stocking filler all wrapped up in a lovely little hessian sack. Another thing on our Santa List!

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LITTLE GRIPPERS
Another lovely little stocking filler, socks that stay up! Great for little ones and bigger ones too! Lovely company with excellent customer service!

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MAMAS & PAPAS
So many LOVELY things to choose from here! Gorgeous outfits for the big day and some lovely toys too! We never fail to shop here without picking up something for George! Another great thing is they do vouchers so if you’re stuck what to get someone with a little one just get a Voucher and let them decide!

DAVID AUSTIN ROSES
I adore David Austin Roses, there are so many great gift ideas here or you could even arrange a day out as a Gift! This will be featuring in a future blog post all about grown up days out!

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HORSESHOE HEARTS & GIFTS
This company was shared by a blogger friend of mine and coming from a horsey background the moment I saw them I loved them! They just screamed quality! Such a stunning idea and the craftsmanship is outstanding! Perfect for horsey relatives or friends!

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MAISON BERGER
I love my burner from this company, so much so I bought one for my little boys Godmother as a thank you gift! They really are a special gift and the scents you can get are amazing. My personal favourites are Forest Mist and Cotton Caress.

FOR ME & FOR YOU
These gorgeous wooden coasters and wall art are absolutely lovely and come in a few different designs! Our eyes were caught by the lovely Fox coasters.

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MAXEYS FARM SHOP
A hamper is always a lovely gift to give and receive. I love making up my own hampers and usually end up back at Maxey’s buying all sorts of things to fill them to the brim with loveliness! Preserves, Chutneys, Pastas, Biscuits, Spirits even Lip Balms and Hand creams. You can make a hamper up using whatever you like! I’ve done them in Buckets, Baskets, Garden Planters and all sorts. You also don’t have to stick to the traditional savoury type ones, you could do a sweet one, pampering, gardening, doggy, kitty, horsey whatever you like!

blur focus jam jars

BEESWAX WRAPS UK
These are a fantastic gift for someone like me who’s trying to be more Eco conscious! You use them instead of Clingfilm and they’re re-useable saving on plastics and great for the environment! They come in some lovely designs and different sizes to suit your needs! They even have a Turtle Charity Design donating 10% of the profits to Surfers Against Sewage.

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MY VISIBLE OBJECT
For something a bit different, have a look at these lovely quote leaves we found at My Visible Object! I discovered them at RHS Chatsworth and stupidly didn’t buy any whilst I was there, I ended up ordering two when I got home! I bought the Gertrude Jekyll and Audrey Hepburn ones best but could quite happily have more!

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FARMER CHRISTMAS
We love our Farmer Christmas book and he has a new one out this year! Perfect for adding to a Christmas Eve box! George is sure to like it!

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GILES & BELLA
Lovely little shop in Newark, Nottinghamshire stocking all manner of Country Attire! Stockists of Joules, Dubarry, Fairfax & Favour, Cath Kidston to name but a few! There really is something for everyone here and again Gift Vouchers are an option!

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OLD PIGGERY PRODUCTS
These are wonderful gifts, certainly something a little bit different, and with so many designs to choose from there’s sure to be one you fall for! We did!

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NO ORDINARY GIFT COMPANY
These North Pole style personalised baubles are just adorable! We has these made up a few years ago.  I shall be ordering a new one to commemorate George’s 1st Christmas!

Customised North Pole Baubles
Our families customised North Pole Baubles

EDEN HALL DAY SPA PACKAGE
Want to really treat someone special then you can’t go far wrong by getting them a day at Eden Hall.  I love the Thermal spa suite, the Caldarium and the Rose infused steam room.  You can buy a gift card or Treatments and it’s the perfect way to say I love you! My personal favourite treatments are Clarins but they do a wide selection of others and you could even add on a luxury afternoon tea! The brownie points are well and truly in the bag with this one!

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THE WILD STICK MAKER
How about commissioning a special stick? These are exquisite; the craftsmanship is second to none! Have one made of a loyal companion and give it as a gift, I couldn’t think of anything better!

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So that’s just a few gift ideas, I’ve got plenty more and if you’ve got a great idea you’d like to share why not go to our Facebook page and leave us a comment!

Seasonal

HALLOWEEN

Ok so I promised a Halloween blog post and here it is, in all its glorious ghoulishness!
halloween lettering copy
Halloween at our house is as big an occasion as Christmas, it is HUGE! We love the fact that we can do something special for all the neighbourhood children and scare a few of the grown-ups along the way!

We spend at least a day dressing the outside of the house with all manner or scary props and then on Hallows eve the floodgates open and the entire neighbourhood is filled with ghosts, ghouls, zombies, werewolves, spiders and everything equally scary!

Our exterior decorations have grown over the years, we started out with just a few bits like cobwebs and do not enter tape we bought at the likes of Wilkinsons etc but our first significant purchase was “Bones”.  He is our static life sized ghoul who holds a steaming goblet which changes colour. My partner bought an outfit to match and so the pair of them stand at the front of the house. One obviously isn’t going to move but the other will and my goodness he’s made some people jump over the years! We’ve added to Bones by way of a few floating ghosts which come to life when they hear a sound so again, when Bones and my partner are stood still they are silent but when the Trick or Treaters knock on the door they come to life and are quite terrifying! We have bubbling cauldrons, skeleton dogs and cats, bats and gravestones.   Another thing we tend to do is open the door VERY loudly and quickly, again this is something most people don’t expect, and even those returning year upon year don’t seem to remember and they jump!

Vampire Costume
Inflatable wings Vampire costume

My eldest has been a number of different devilish things for Halloween; A werewolf, the scream character, but my favourite was a vampire with inflatable wings! Super cute!  Now he’s nearly a teenager he’s gone off the idea of going out trick or treating (apparently it’s not cool!) so no doubt this year he’ll just be joining in the sweet eating at home!

My outfit is custom made by my fair hands! I created a corpse bride outfit made from a second hand wedding dress purchased from ebay! I absolutely LOVE it and have roamed the streets with my son on many a hallows eve! Face and body painted the lot!  I adore Tim Burtons the Corpse bride and I can’t wait till George is big enough so I can wear my outfit and do it all over again!!!

Our pumpkin carving is also a huge event in our house and generally involves the entire kitchen being taken over with carving tools, buckets and drills etc. My partner favours a more mechanical technique, a Dremel, for carving intricate designs, I prefer the more traditional approach but I must admit I was tempted last year to give the Dremel a try! We’ve done some lovely designs over the years, granted none of us will win a turner prize but I think they’re great.

We hand pick our Pumpkins from Maxeys Farm Shop Pumpkins, their pumpkin field is phenomenal! They make complete event of it with Pumpkin Bouncy castles, a BBQ, even a Halloween Shop.  Their Pumpkins are great, very reasonably priced and the fun really is in the picking!

All our carved pumpkins stand pride of place outside the front of the house cordoned off so no one can get burned by the candles. I also like to make a mean Pumpkin soup with the leftover carvings too!

Halloween is such a great night! Living on such a large estate I love that it starts off slowly with the really little ones who are just adorable in their cute Halloween outfits (We’ve already got George a few outfits including a Pumpkin, Ghostbuster and my favourite Harry Potter even though he won’t be going out this year!) We always try to be as friendly and inviting as we can with the little ones as we don’t want to absolutely terrify them BUT as the night goes on the mood generally gets scarier and scarier until all that’s left are the teenagers and in the end they usually poop their pants too!

We’ve hosted neighbourhood parties on Halloween which included apple bobbing contests and other games but after the marauding masses subside it’s our Halloween tradition that as a family we always have Hotdogs, cake and sweeties! It’s a tradition that I love and will continue to do with my children (and in lots of time hopefully grandchildren) as long as I am able!

When it comes to the Trick or Treats we always opt for treats and usually end up spending a small fortune on Sweet shop favourites such as Drumstick Lollies, Refreshers etc etc.

So when it comes to Halloween get your best scary outfit on, and have a great time!

Be safe, take a grown up and our main rule is ONLY knock on the houses with Pumpkins – Those are the ones who want to join in the fun!

Holiday Hell, Holidays

Holiday Hell: Best Tenerife Hotel, Playa de las Americas, Tenerife.

Now this might be a holiday hell review but Tenerife as a holiday destination is an amazing place.  I wouldn’t want to put anyone off visiting this gorgeous country, the volcanic scenery really is something special and I dare say you could have an absolutely fantastic holiday here. Sadly our Tenerife holiday was completely spoiled by the “Best” (aka WORST) Tenerife Hotel.  I would love to go back to Tenerife and give it a second chance but I would NEVER stay at this Hotel again!

Quite literally from the moment we walked into the reception to check in you could tell the 4* rating was a completely false representation of this hotel. It looked incredibly dated and not at all what we’d been sold! Our flight times meant we arrived at the hotel just after they had finished serving the evening meal and despite asking at the reception desk we were told there were no provisions for late arrival travellers, not even a sandwich or bottle of water!

After checking in we made our own way to our room and found it to be incredibly basic, dirty and generally not up to a 4* standard. The beds were so hard I may as well have been sleeping on the floor, although if I’d have done that I would have had to share with all the ants! Needless to say we barely slept a wink the whole time we were there.

Our first experience of the “food” was the following morning when we went down for “Breakfast”.  I use the term breakfast in the loosest sense of the word as what was provided was barely suitable for feeding to a stray dog! I settled on some miscellaneous cheese and a slice of what could possibly have been ham, who knows as nothing was labelled and if you suffered allergies it was pot luck! All meals thereafter were of equal repulsiveness and myself and my son lived on foul tasting chips, possibly Ham and cheese for the duration of our stay.

Now we had paid for all-inclusive and therefore on our first full day we went to go and get ourselves some drinks and an ice cream from the bar. We were very quickly informed that the “ALL” inclusive drinks were from a dispenser in the corner! Serve yourself! If I recall correctly you could have red or white wine (replace the word wine for vinegar!), some miscellaneous watered down “beer” that my partner said tasted ‘off’, a selection of “Spirits” which again were all miscellaneous bottles and the one I dared to try tasted like cough medicine. When it came to ice-creams they had a lovely poster displaying a large selection of Cornetto’s, Magnum’s and ice lollies etc, however the only one allowed for “all” inclusive customers was a nasty Choc Ice!

It was utterly disgraceful! I have NEVER been so appalled by a hotel in my life! I’d spent thousands of pounds on what was sold to us by our local travel agent to be this amazing luxury holiday and it was the polar opposite! (Needless to say we complained and took matters a lot further when we got back to the UK!)

So take note, when booking your holiday’s just check that all-inclusive actually means ALL inclusive! Having stayed all-inclusive in various hotels previously I didn’t expect it to mean anything else but ALL inclusive so be warned, it is not guaranteed!

Now appalling hotel aside, Tenerife IS amazing and during our time there we did have some great days, trips out and I would certainly recommend doing the following;

  •  Siam Park – OMG this place is out of this world! THE best water park EVER! We had an amazing time here. The organisation from the hotel was again shocking but once we were there it was fantastic! I would definitely go back if we returned to Tenerife. The rides were exhilarating and the Siam beach was amazing! The wave machine was huge and it was just the best fun, just what we needed on our holiday from hell!
  •  Mount Teide Jeep Safari Tour – This was again another fab day out, touring all around the island in the back of an open top jeep! All around these amazing tracks and up Mount Teide, then a stop off for a traditional Tenerife meal. Great fun, our tour guide was hilarious and I would certainly do it again. The views were spectacular and gave you a real sense of the islands history and special nature.
  • Crazy Golf at Mini Golf Santiago in Playa de las Americas – This was so much fun, it does get busy but we went just as it was getting dark and the lights and effects are great! Would highly recommend you do this if you visit.

Playa de las Americas is also a nice area, there are plenty of shops and entertainment. The musical fountain is especially nice of an evening.  The beach is nice (although MUCH further from our hotel than we were advised!) and there are parasols and loungers you can hire too but be warned my eldest was stung by a jelly fish whilst swimming here!

The only other activity my partner and eldest participated in was a Scuba diving excursion with Blue diving school.  First they went snorkelling which they both really enjoyed, it gave my eldest loads of confidence in the sea and he was beaming when they’d finished.  Then in the afternoon they were both to go scuba diving.  My more experienced partner completed and enjoyed his dive but my eldest was 11 at the time and didn’t manage to get down and dive at all.  The equipment was leaking air which scared him, they did replace the leaking regulator but then forced him to walk quite a distance carrying all the very heavy gear with no help in the heat of the day.    By the time he got to the sea he was exhausted and panicking.  The Blue dive school were very unhelpful, showed no sympathy to him whatsoever, they dragged him out of the sea and abandoned him on the beach in all his heavy kit as they all buggered off diving!  He was distraught and absolutely devastated he hadn’t managed to dive and I certainly would not recommend this trip for anyone under the age of 16.
Tenerife 2016_098
In hindsight we shouldn’t have gone abroad for his first scuba experience but he was a very confident swimmer and it was something he was more than capable of given the proper instruction.

He passed his PADI Open Water on returning to the UK thanks to the amazing instruction and training from the team at DIVE A LOT SCUBA who built his confidence back up. I can’t praise them highly enough!

Activities with Baby

How to entertain a baby: Our Top 25 Clean Sensory Play Things

It’s a fact, babies just don’t stay babies for long, and at some point the cuddles and snuggles will not be enough, they will need….entertaining!

To coin a phrase…. How hard can it be?….well let me tell you, sometimes VERY hard indeed! Bearing in mind your precious little one will probably have an attention span of about a millisecond; you’ll need the largest box of tricks known to man in order to keep them entertained for long.

Now luckily they start off slowly, they get tired quickly, so this is their way of easing us into eventually spending 4 hours playing Monopoly or similar!
I started looking into sensory play and discovered a wealth of fantastic ideas to not only entertain baby but begin the very important process of learning too. Something to stimulate the senses and that baby can join in with, rather than just sitting/laying watching you do something! (Cause let’s face it that would be boring!)

I started by buying a large clear storage box with a lid, this would become the sensory box and would sit in our living room, on hand, for when entertainment was required. Then as I was out and about I’d be looking in shops and in nature to find things that would be safe but interesting to touch, hear etc. I found no end of inspiration on Pinterest and dedicated a board to all the ideas I liked.

I’ve compiled a list of what’s in our box so hopefully it’ll give you some inspiration too;

1. Tambourine – Lots of noise!
2. Maraca – Slightly less noise!
3. Spikey Ball & Ring – These are by far Georges Favourite items
4. Holey Ball – This can be stuffed with fabric scraps for them to pull out too
5. Little Tikes Drum – Lights up and plays tunes responding to the taps

6. Space Blanket – NOTE: this is a noisy one!!!!! They love it though, lay them on top and as they wriggle around it makes loads of rustly noise!
7. Bright Coloured tubs – Picnic pots from ASDA but they stack and you can hide things under them to find!
8. Transparent Rainbow Pencil case – Hold it up to a light, Magic!
9. Rain Shaker – My partner bought this as a souvenir in Mexico years ago but the sound is fantastic and George loves listening to it.
10. Plastic Bottles filled with different things! – We have one with Multi-coloured Plastic Buttons, one with wooden beads, one with clear Crystals and they all make a different sound too. We also have one with fluffy pompoms (I like this one best as its silent!)

11. Ribbons tied to a wooden curtain loop – An odd one I found on Pinterest but its fab, you can customise the colours, do a black & white one, multi-coloured, whatever you fancy!
12. A car polishing mitten – Another favourite, he loves feeling the microfiber fingers.
13. A shimmering rainbow fabric length – This can be wafted over them when lying down, they can snuggle it, held up in the sun it looks fab too!
14. A Shimmering Starry length of Fabric – This one I discovered at our Daisy Baby Wrigglers group and I just loved it! I sourced the fabric online and made our own night sky at home.
15. Feathers – I found some bright coloured craft ones.

16. Artificial Leaves – Sprinkle them over them as they lay down! George loves this!
17. Large Sparkly Pipe Cleaners – NOTE: you do need to be careful with these as they contain wire and they can hurt themselves if left to their own devises!
18. Bubbles! – No sensory box would be complete without a tube of bubbles for blowing! (TIP: Carry one in your changing bag too, just in case you need entertainment on the go!)
19. Sparkly Balls – Roll them about and the glitter disperses, let them stay still and it all settles. Fascinating!
20. A shower Puff – A clean unused one obviously, but the texture is a great new discovery!

21. A light up bow – Fibre optic light up present bow, changes colour.
22. A Cat teaser toy – NOTE: Shut the cats OUT the room when attempting play with this one!
23. A shimmering Gift Bag – In the sun this never fails to attract their attention!
24. A mermaid Cushion – George has a black/silver one and is fascinated by it!
25. Ok so this one technically isn’t in the box but it is something to entertain – No mess Painting! Another idea borrowed from Pinterest. Place a piece of paper in a zip lock food bag, put a few dollops of ready mixed paint on the paper, zip shut and tape down to their highchair tray. Encourage them to push the paint about inside the bag! Voila! Painting but without the mess!

There are so many more ideas to try and as we learn some more I will be sure to keep sharing them!

Beside the Seaside

Beside the seaside: Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire UK

Located on the East Coast of Lincolnshire, Mablethorpe is a great place to visit, there really is something for everyone.

The beach is superbly clean and goes on for miles! The waves tend to be a little kinder and the little ones can play in the (usually warmer) shallow streams that form when the tide goes out. The very gently sloping beach is also great as the kids can play quite far out in the sea but generally still touch the floor! (Parental supervision required mind!)

We always start off at the North End where it’s a little quieter, away from the main promenade, so you get a nice bit of beach pretty much to yourself!
The car park at the North end couldn’t be any better, you simply park up, walk over the dune and you’re on the beach! There’s even a little shop selling teas, coffees and beach paraphernalia.

The thing I like most about Mablethorpe is that you can have the best of both worlds. If you like the hubbub of the main promenade area it’s great, with all the arcades, funfair and shops but if like me you like a slightly more sedate seaside experience 5 mins down the road you can have the peace and quiet too.  We normally do half and half!

There is also something very special that you just don’t get in many places and that’s the Sand Train! A train that drives up and down the beach, in the breaking surf, which for the kiddies (and big kiddies!) is so much fun!


We’ve had no end of great family times at Mablethorpe, flying kites, building sandcastles and playing in the arcades. When it comes to lunch, Monty’s Fish & Chips is our top tip! Located on Fitzwilliam Street near the main promenade area the food there is absolutely delicious.  We normally sit in which is great option when you have little ones in tow plus they can have a pit stop there too!

Another lovely place we like to go and have a nice ice cream is Mr. G’s on the seafront. A fantastic café which does food, drinks and of course Ice cream including a mean Knickerbocker Glory!

We highly recommend Mablethorpe for a great family day out! Its a regular for us!